We humanists are opinionated people.
We like to argue. It’s how we learn.
What’s most exciting is finding out you are mistaken.
I realize a lot of people hate to find out they were wrong, but acknowledging you were wrong means you are thinking better and making fewer mistakes. That’s a
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good thing and it should be embraced.
We are in the midst of a presidential election year.
Almost everyone, including humanists, are arguing. A lot.
We are discussing which candidate is better and what direction we think the country should go in. These arguments can get pretty heated.
There is a reason religion and politics are not considered appropriate topics for polite conversation.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have these discussions. We just should strive to engage in these conversations in a respectful way.
We should also strive to ground our opinions in reality and make sure what we think we know is actually so.
Remaining reality based when discussing politics is hard to do. Two instinctual responses make thinking rationally about politics difficult.
First, we are tribal animals. Once we choose a side, we tend to see our side as good and the other side as evil.
If the other side is evil opposing them becomes a moral crusade. Crusades rarely end well.
Hint: If you think your opponent and their supporters are evil, you are acting instinctually and not thinking rationally.
The other thing we do is once we make a decision to support a candidate or position, we tend to look for information that validates our choice and ignore things that don’t.
This tendency is called confirmation bias and we all fall prey to it. We do ourselves and our country a disservice when we fail to accept contradictory information.
When our tendency to think of the opposing viewpoint as evil is combined with our tendency to ignore evidence that we might be mistaken, you get a perfect storm of irrationality.
To quote from “Humanism and Its Aspirations:” “Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively
without resorting to violence.”
I suspect most people agree with this statement. The first step toward reaching this ideal is to remind ourselves the people we disagree with aren’t evil. They just have a different opinion.
One final note: at some point you will find yourself arguing with a person who clearly bases their opinion on their worst tribal impulses and who only consumes information that confirms their biases. You will be tempted to think they are idiots being duped by evil people.
They aren’t. They are human just like you and they might just be right. So show some compassion and some humility. Please.
Jennifer Hancock is founder of Humanist Learning Systems and the author of several books about humanism. https://humanistlearning.com